This past Saturday, March 7th 2015, I joined my hiking club The Island Mountain Ramblers for a hike in the Nanaimo Lakes Region. Thirteen hikers hit the road at the not-too-early time of 7 am. We accessed our route via Spruceston road (remember to honk before passing under the trestle). At the end of the Spruceton, turn left onto Timberlands and soon a quick right onto McKay Lake FSR. We were lucky to find the gate open. For security, we left a vehicle on the exit side of the gate, in case we returned to find the gate closed and locked.
Horizontal Distance: 8.5 km
Starting Elevation: 650 m
Maximum Elevation: 1260 m
Elevation Gain: 700 m
Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
McKay Peak is nestled between Cowichan Valley and the Nanaimo Lakes Region. The route we used is more of a wander in the woods than a traditional hike. There is no booted path, ribboned route or even a hint of a seldom used route. The best plan for doing this hike is to have a summit waypoint on a GPS and employ your fabulous route finding skills to achieve the summit.
I was happy to see the gate disapearing behind us, I'm sure it saved us two hours of hiking on logging roads. The road up is in reasonable condition with only 2 cross-ditches, they are significant enough that my Subaru Outback would have issues. Rod's 4x4 had no issues
I don't have a lot to offer in terms of the route description. We followed the logging road through strangleholds of alder before ascending into the first growth forest to avoid walking on logging road. We traveled southeast, up to a wide ridge, through the steep forest. Around 950 metres we hit our first inch of snow. We followed the followed the ridge west, rejoining a section of logging road that took us quickly on our route. Again we avoided logging road and cutblock by heading into first growth forest. We gained the mountain top by hiking the east face and following the mountain's top ridge, south.
Ascending to Mckay Peak
The hike was pleasant enough, though the majority of the hike is through the bush and there is little to no view until you reach a select few outlooks. Still, this hike is well worth it. The true reward is the view from the summit at 1260 m. The summit is lightly treed and mostly exposed rock. From the summit there are views of the entire valley. It opens wide below and in all directions for the peak. We could see, Buffalo Hump, De Cosmos, Hooker, Mt Moriarty, Mt. Arrowsmith, Minnas Ridge, Green Mountain, Halley Lake Ecological Reserve, Mt Whymper, Landale and more.
Buffalo Hump, De Cosmos, Hooker, Arrowsmith, Moriarty, Green and More
Shot from McKay Peak, looking west
Island Mountain Ramblers, sunning on McKay Peak
We spent our sweet time on the peak, eating lunch and reading maps to identify all the surrounding peaks. We basked in the sun and company but before too long we were on our way again.
Descending we took a different route. Though this route took us through first-growth, it was through dense bush and it ultimately exited into a section of cut-block that was less than fun to cross. Fortunately, though it is early March, we had excellent temperatures and the ground was dry, slip free and we stayed dry as we pushed through the bush. We made it to the logging road before 1:30 and we took our final break. Many of the hikers boasted scratched arms and legs, reminders that we really were pushing through Vancouver Island bush.
ONce everyone arrived and rested we were on our way again. We made it back to the vehicles by 3 o'clock.
Recommendations for this peak, follow the route we traveled up, and avoid our route down. If you want a hike through first growth forest, this is your hike. If your goal is a plethora of views while hiking, pick a different hike.